These 4 Measures Indicate That Cable One (NYSE:CABO) Is Using Debt Reasonably Well

By
Simply Wall St
Published
September 27, 2021
NYSE:CABO
Source: Shutterstock

Some say volatility, rather than debt, is the best way to think about risk as an investor, but Warren Buffett famously said that 'Volatility is far from synonymous with risk.' So it seems the smart money knows that debt - which is usually involved in bankruptcies - is a very important factor, when you assess how risky a company is. As with many other companies Cable One, Inc. (NYSE:CABO) makes use of debt. But the real question is whether this debt is making the company risky.

Why Does Debt Bring Risk?

Debt assists a business until the business has trouble paying it off, either with new capital or with free cash flow. If things get really bad, the lenders can take control of the business. However, a more usual (but still expensive) situation is where a company must dilute shareholders at a cheap share price simply to get debt under control. Of course, debt can be an important tool in businesses, particularly capital heavy businesses. When we think about a company's use of debt, we first look at cash and debt together.

View our latest analysis for Cable One

How Much Debt Does Cable One Carry?

You can click the graphic below for the historical numbers, but it shows that as of June 2021 Cable One had US$3.98b of debt, an increase on US$1.94b, over one year. However, it also had US$449.0m in cash, and so its net debt is US$3.54b.

debt-equity-history-analysis
NYSE:CABO Debt to Equity History September 27th 2021

A Look At Cable One's Liabilities

The latest balance sheet data shows that Cable One had liabilities of US$298.7m due within a year, and liabilities of US$4.85b falling due after that. Offsetting these obligations, it had cash of US$449.0m as well as receivables valued at US$72.2m due within 12 months. So it has liabilities totalling US$4.63b more than its cash and near-term receivables, combined.

This deficit isn't so bad because Cable One is worth a massive US$11.2b, and thus could probably raise enough capital to shore up its balance sheet, if the need arose. However, it is still worthwhile taking a close look at its ability to pay off debt.

We use two main ratios to inform us about debt levels relative to earnings. The first is net debt divided by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), while the second is how many times its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) covers its interest expense (or its interest cover, for short). The advantage of this approach is that we take into account both the absolute quantum of debt (with net debt to EBITDA) and the actual interest expenses associated with that debt (with its interest cover ratio).

Cable One has a debt to EBITDA ratio of 4.9 and its EBIT covered its interest expense 4.5 times. Taken together this implies that, while we wouldn't want to see debt levels rise, we think it can handle its current leverage. Also relevant is that Cable One has grown its EBIT by a very respectable 21% in the last year, thus enhancing its ability to pay down debt. There's no doubt that we learn most about debt from the balance sheet. But it is future earnings, more than anything, that will determine Cable One's ability to maintain a healthy balance sheet going forward. So if you're focused on the future you can check out this free report showing analyst profit forecasts.

But our final consideration is also important, because a company cannot pay debt with paper profits; it needs cold hard cash. So we clearly need to look at whether that EBIT is leading to corresponding free cash flow. Over the most recent three years, Cable One recorded free cash flow worth 72% of its EBIT, which is around normal, given free cash flow excludes interest and tax. This free cash flow puts the company in a good position to pay down debt, when appropriate.

Our View

Cable One's conversion of EBIT to free cash flow was a real positive on this analysis, as was its EBIT growth rate. But truth be told its net debt to EBITDA had us nibbling our nails. Considering this range of data points, we think Cable One is in a good position to manage its debt levels. Having said that, the load is sufficiently heavy that we would recommend any shareholders keep a close eye on it. When analysing debt levels, the balance sheet is the obvious place to start. However, not all investment risk resides within the balance sheet - far from it. To that end, you should learn about the 3 warning signs we've spotted with Cable One (including 1 which can't be ignored) .

If you're interested in investing in businesses that can grow profits without the burden of debt, then check out this free list of growing businesses that have net cash on the balance sheet.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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